Adobe breathes AIR for Linux

Web apps can run outside browser on OpenSuse, Fedora, and Ubuntu Linux distributions.

Adobe Systems has extended its AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) technology to Linux desktops.

Previously available for Windows and Macintosh, AIR is Adobe's free technology that enables delivery of Web applications that also can run outside the browser; it lets Flash programs run on the desktop. The Linux version of the software can be accessed here.

The company is making available version 1.5 of AIR for users of the OpenSuse 10.3, Fedora Core and Ubuntu 7.10 or higher open-source Linux distributions. AIR 1.5 also has worked on Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop, but the company has not tested it on this implementation of Linux.

"We're experiencing nearly 100 million installations of Adobe AIR on Mac and Windows by the end of this year," said Adrian Ludwig, group product manager for the platform business unit at Adobe. "That strength of platform across Mac and Windows is going to make it very easy for developers to build applications that will end up running on Linux as well."

AIR 1.5 for Linux is arriving a month after it became available for Windows and Macintosh. Future versions of AIR will arrive simultaneously for all three platforms, Adobe said.

AIR applications can access local data and receive activity notifications from the Internet in the background. For example, the Fox News AIR application offers a popup window to inform users of a new show. "It changes from having to have [the Fox News] Web site front and center," Ludwig said.

"There's an element to being able to work offline because you don't need to be connected the way a browser requires," he said.

Linux penetration on the desktop was estimated at less than 5 percent overall by Forrester's Jeffrey Hammond, senior analyst for application development. But by putting AIR on Linux, Adobe believes it is addressing a situation in which it has been difficult to build applications for the Linux client, Ludwig said.

Hammond emphasized that developers are an important part of the Linux desktop contingent.

"Even though the rates of desktop usage for Linux are low, I think there's a high percentage of developers and application development decision makers that are part of that group," Hammond said. "What AIR 1.5 for Linux does is knock down one more hurdle that would keep them from committing to it as a strategic cross-platform technology. It allows them to make a technology decision while keeping their options open."

Adobe with AIR also is enabling developers focused on cloud-based deployments to have more power on the client, Ludwig said.

To build AIR applications, developers can use Web development technologies such as JavaScript, HTML, ActionScript and Adobe Flex. The same AIR installer runs on Linux, Windows, and Macintosh.

AIR 1.5 includes Flash Player 10 capabilities, such as support for custom filters and effects, native 3D transformations, and animation. Also featured in version 1.5 is the WebKit JavaScript engine and "SquirrelFish," to make JavaScript execute faster. An encrypted database is highlighted in AIR 1.5 for enterprise security compliance requirements and secure data storage.

Facing off against AIR, Sun Microsystems with its recently released JavaFX rich Internet application technology has boasted that its software has an advantage in that JavaFX runs on both the browser and desktop while Adobe offers AIR for the desktop and Flash for the browser. But Adobe's Ludwig was not overly concerned.

"So far, we haven't seen JavaFX come to market particularly effectively," Ludwig said. In terms of functionality, a lot of AIR applications use the same code for the browser and desktop, he said.

AIR 1.0 shipped in February 2008.

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Paul Krill

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